FORMER Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile says there is little chance Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will emerge from her impeachment trial unscathed.
Enrile, who presided over the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012, is reported to have volunteered to serve as a member of the prosecution panel in Sereno’s impeachment trial.
“I am 95 years old. I have seen the history of our country from
the time of Quezon all the way up to now,” Enrile said.
“And this is the first time―the only time that I have witnessed a spectacle where members of the Supreme Court testified against their own chief justice.”
Enrile said people normally looked up to the members of the Supreme Court as untouchable people, as eminent examples of rectitude.
“And here is a case where a person who became chief justice is the subject of a complaint by a big number of members of the court. You know, a situation like that shatters the political order,” he said.
“Imagine, the Chief Justice belying her own Supreme Court about the nature of the leave that was granted to her. She said it was a voluntary leave for wellness, but the Supreme Court―her own Supreme Court―tells the public that it is not for wellness, it is an indefinite leave because of what is happening to her.
“She has put herself in a position where she, in effect―I’m sorry to say this―destroyed herself as the chief justice.”
If a Chief Justice tells a lie, Enrile said, then that is a violation of Article 11 of the Constitution on betrayal of public trust.
Corona, Enrile said, was impeached because of the non-inclusion of assets in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
He said the SALN is a part of the accountability of a public officer. It must be publicly revealed when he or she assumes public office so the people will know how much wealth he or she has.
“Upon exiting from public service, you must file the SALN to show whether you increased your wealth during the time you served the government. Now, if you do not comply with that, you betray the public trust.
“Now she is on indefinite leave, and that is why the President appointed an acting chief justice. But the position of the chief justice is still not vacant because she is still there. So you have to find a mechanism to take her out.”
Asked for his reaction to the statement of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that the House would rather wait for the quo warranto petition to be resolved by the Supreme Court before they decide whether to elevate the case to the Senate, Enrile said: “Well, that is an option that they may have to take. I will not question their choice of remedies.”
Enrile said the purpose of the quo warranto is to challenge the validity of the appointment of the public officer. “It becomes a judicial matter, it has to be litigated,” he said.
The two sides will file pleadings, they will file a petition for quo warranto against the chief justice and she will answer through her lawyers. There will be arguments, and then it will take time before the Supreme Court can study and decide the matter to resolve it. After the decision comes out, then whoever will lose may file a motion for reconsideration. It will be a long process.
“But personally I must say, with due respect to those who filed the quo warranto petition, if there is a ground to impeach her, impeachment is the easiest way. It’s just a question of numbers.”